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Amazon.com: Customer reviews: The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak
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The story of Janusz Korezak has been documented in many sources. This picture book reveals part of his story to a more youthful audience. The length of the text and the content would be better suited for children slightly older than the usual picture book audience. Janusz's love of children will be felt immediately. The illustration on the cover page aptly illustrates this point. How many grown men are hugged by a half of a dozen children?
Non-fiction books that focus on prominent individuals introduce the concept of a "biography" to younger readers. Tomek does a wonderful job of bringing Janusz's life into the spotlight by using a combination of pictures and words. It is one of many books that can be used to highlight the beginning, middle and end of a prominent person's life and the choices that they made. The ramifications of the Holocaust are addressed in the last half of the book. All of the information provided will be useful to any upper elementary child or middle schooler who is trying to gain an understanding of World War II and the Holocaust.
Learning that Janusz perished with his orphans instead of responding to multiple opportunities to escape, illustrates the full depth of Janusz dedication to the children who he cherished.
For several months, I have been eagerly awaiting this book about my hero, Janusz Korczak; the colorful thumbnail picture and the projected release date were teasers all summer long. The book was released on schedule and I immediately bought a copy. Well, both the wait and the purchase have been most worthwhile.
So, another book on Korczak for children? I already have several fine volumes, including those of Spielman, Adler, and Bernheim, along with a rare imprint from Israel. First, with so little about this great man published in English, anything of quality is welcome. Second, Korczak was a true champion of children, so children's books about the Old Doctor are particularly welcome. Of the three picture books on Korczak currently available, this one is my favorite.
Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldzmit, a sensitive boy born in Warsaw in 1878. A loner and a dreamer, from the time he was about 11 he empathized with the children in the street, most of whom were much poorer than he. When his father died, the young Korczak had to take on tutoring jobs to support his family; even then, he offered lessons for free to pupils who could not afford the fee. He went on to study pediatric medicine, but gave up a lucrative practice to found an orphanage. He incorporated his ideas, all of which were based on the respect for the child, who he considered a person here an not, not a person of tomorrow. With the Nazi invasion of Poland in the Second World War, Korczak and his staff were forced to relocate to the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. On several occasions, he was offered false papers to escape to the Aryan side. However, he refused each time, continuing to provide comfort for the many orphans in the city. Several writers have discribed his somber procession of nearly 200 orphans to the trains that would take him and his charges to Treblinka, never to be seen again.
Books and plays on Korczak fall into two categories: telling his entire life or focusing on his role in caring for children in the Ghetto. This book falls into the former category, providing the reader with an important context for Korczak's heroic deeds without making him appear a victim. Tomek Bogacki, himself born in Poland, tells of Janusz Korczak's life with great sensitivity, without sentimentality; his beautiful acrylic illustrations complement the text effectively, especially in his use of bright colors to illustrate the happy moments and dark, somber colors for the sad parts of the story. The text may be a little difficult to read for younger readers, but the book is suitable for read-aloud even for little ones - even in the darkest moments, there is hope. Which is exactly how Janusz Korczak, champion of the children, wanted it.
Having taught Holocaust history in the past, I'm quite familiar with the story of Janusz Korczak. He was a remarkable man and a strong and vocal advocate of children's rights. In this simple yet well-written picture book, children will be able to get to know Korczak, who spent a great part of his life advocating for the rights of downtrodden children. Though his real name was Henryk Goldszmit, he was better known as Janusz Korczak, which was his pen name. Since he was a young child, Korczak had a deep sense of compassion for orphaned children, street children, and any child that was without food, shelter, or care.
As Korczak grew older, his dreams of providing a better life for less privileged children was reinforced, especially when his own family became impoverished as a result of his father's death and Korczak had to become the main breadwinner. As he grew up, Korczak studied medicine, and went on to publish articles and books about caring and educating children. He eagerly accepted the position of director of an orphanage for Jewish children. The ideas that Korczak implemented in his orphanage were ahead of his time - care and love were emphasized, older children acted as mentors to younger children, and a democratic system was put into place in the orphanage.
Unfortunately, historical events put an end to Korczak's well-run orphanage. When the Nazis conquered Poland in 1939, things turned ugly for the Jews, and when the Jews were ordered to move into the Warsaw Ghetto, Korczak (who was Jewish) and his orphans were also compelled to move. The book portrays the resilience displayed by Korczak in those dark days - he continued to provide unwavering love and care for his beloved orphans, and tried his best to see to their needs, though starvation was rampant in the ghetto. Finally, in 1942, the dreaded Nazi order for deportation came - Korczak's orphans were asked to report for deportation to Treblinka, a notorious extermination center. Though he could have saved himself with the help of willing friends beyond the ghetto walls, Korczak refused and went along with his orphans to their doom. Korczak is an inspiration to child advocates everywhere - in life and in death, he continues to be a beacon of hope and inspiration to those who like Korczak, believe in the rights of a child to a decent quality of life.
The writing in this book is simple enough that young children should be able to follow it somewhat though I would recommend this for children ages 8 and up if only because the subject matter is rather heavy-going for a young child to comprehend. When I read this to my kindergartener, she was able to understand some parts, but the part about the ghettos and the transportation of the children was beyond her comprehension, and I found it hard to simplify it for her, choosing instead to focus on Korczak's love and care for his orphans.
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2009
Janusz Korczak was born into family of privilege, but he was always sensitive to the needs of other children. His father unknowingly introduced him to the lowest of the low, the poorest of the poor and he could easily see for himself how difficult their lives must be. Even as a young boy he wanted to help them and "If he were [a] king . . . he would create a better world for these children, a world where no one suffered." When Warsaw was annexed to Russia, his own life became miserable. Children were forced to speak Russian in school and because children had no rights they could be "severely punished, even beaten, for the slightest misstep." Children in those days had rough lives.
When Janusz was eleven, his father died and he had to assume more responsibility in his family. He also was determined to help the lesser privileged children in Old Town Warsaw. As an adult he was a physician who worked in the hospital for Jewish children by day and helped the poor children by night for free. It was not long before he became the director of an orphanage for Jewish children. At 92 Krochmalna Street the orphaned children were allowed to "govern themselves." Most importantly he "taught them that making a mistake was sometimes the best way to learn not to make it again." Wartime had come and they were all thrown into the Warsaw Ghetto. More and more children came under his care. They were asked to go to the train station . . .
If this book doesn't bring tears to your eyes not much will. This story was heartwarming and heartbreaking all rolled into one. This short biography about Janusz Korczak was very well written, so much so that by the end I almost felt like I knew him. His personality simply flowed from these pages. The beautiful watercolors somehow had a childlike aura about them and were very touching. In the back of the book there is a small map accompanied by a historical note and a note from the author briefly discussing his inspiration and sources. The end pages, illustrated in watercolor, depict Warsaw, Poland before and after World War II. This is a stunning portrait of a man who influenced the way people viewed the rights of children.
This book is a must read for everyone. It is a beautiful, inspiring, and very poignant story about a Polish Jew who from his youth knew that he wanted to help children less fortunate than him. He became a doctor, and later established an orphanage for Jewish children that honored them as responsible citizens. He set up a system of governance that enabled the children to create the rules for behavior, and administer punishment if needed; although, he taught the children that forgiveness was "the most important rule" and that making mistakes was often a positive way to learn not to make the mistakes again. He created a weekly newspaper to which both staff and children contributed, and supported a mentoring program whereby new children were more easily assimilated. He dedicated his whole life to improving the circumstances of orphaned children, finding time always to play with them, entertain them, and teach them. He wrote a book for children called "King Matt the First" that is still in print. His orphanage was so admired that he was asked to set up another one for Polish children. When Hitler took power, the Jewish children were moved to the Warsaw Ghetto, and two years later, they were killed along with Janusz in the Treblinka Extermination Camp. This is a man who is not widely known but is worthy of standing alongside other great people like Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. The powerful and sometimes haunting acrylic illustrations enhance the text perfectly. Back matter includes: a historical note, an author's note, and an acknowledgement of sources.
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2009
Already at a young age, Janusz Korczak had a keen awareness of the suffering of homeless children on the streets of Warsaw, Poland. He grew up dreaming about how he could fight for the rights of children and help improve their well-being. Even after his father died and Janusz had to work to support his family, he still donated as much as he could to children in need. He ultimately became a pediatrician, and at the same time he wrote children's books and adult books about children's rights.
Korczak also started a new orphanage for Jewish children that had an innovative form of student-led governance. Tragically, several decades later when World War II broke out, the Nazis forced Korczak and all the orphanage residents to move to a walled Jewish quarter of Warsaw known as the ghetto. Although there was not enough space or food for the children in the ghetto home, Korczak did his best to provide them with care and comfort. He never abandoned the orphans, not even when he had options for escape, and not even when they were sent to their deaths in a concentration camp.
Korczak's legacy as an advocate for children has made a lasting contribution. His work helped to motivate the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN also declared 1979 as the International Year of the Child. Tomek Bogacki's gripping illustrations and straightforward text work well together to pay tribute to this inspiring man. The book should serve as a useful tool for parents and teachers seeking to introduce younger readers to events from the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way.
In death as in life, the story of Dr. Janusz Korczak, the Jewish-Polish physician and Warsaw orphanage director continues to captivate people around the world. When I was in Poland recently, it was clear that Korczak, the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, had become the hero Jew of the nation. His story of love and devotion for all children was widely known and widely honored, as it should be. In this beautiful picture book, Tomek Bogacki puts a human touch on Korczak's life through the use of sensitive text and evocative acrylic paintings. From early childhood, Korczak dreamt of a society in which children would be treated with dignity and respect. As an adult, his pedagogical writings and children's books built his reputation. In his orphanage, children were allowed to govern themselves democratically, in effect creating a caring family environment. Even when the Nazis forced the removal of the orphanage into the enclosed walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, Korczak tried, with great hardship, to maintain that level of living. He declined offers to save himself and boarded the train to Treblinka with his children. "Though he couldn't save his orphans from the horror of the Holocaust, his insistence that children have the right to be loved, educated, and protected has continued to inspire people all over the world." For ages 8 - 12. Norm Finkelstein
This is the second picture book I have been able to find on Janusz Korczak, and of the two it is the most informative. Korczak was a Jewish doctor, writer, children’s advocate and humanitarian; reading about him is extremely humbling. He was a pillar of strength and comfort for many orphans in Poland before and during World War II. Sadly, his and his children’s lives ended in the Treblinka extermination camp. His life and sacrifice is one that should never be forgotten. Parents and educators must share his story with their children when covering the Holocaust.